Community and social computing
Whew! It's getting almost too busy to blog already this early in the year...
Ok, my thoughts on Virtual economies affecting the real world is already starting to happen...
CNet had an article on Julian Dibbell's stance on Are Virtual Assets Taxable?" brings a real question to the face of the Internal Revenue Service, the US authority that taxes everyone (even people who don't live in the US).
Julian's story is on his virtual world of Ultima Online which coincidentally was one of the first graphical MMORPGs I used to play years ago. I spent many hours of my childhood playing the single-player Ultima games, so UO was a godsend.
In any case, the same problem exists as I mentioned before, in most if not all virtual worlds, such assets can be freely created and there is no hard limit to resources. This makes it easy to keep increasing the amout of "space" and "stuff" that's all around you. Continue to sell that virtual stuff for real money essentially amounts to devaluing real dollars.
Everyone considered it an amusing diversion but chuckled because "how many players can there be actually doing that?" According to the CNet article the combined number of players already ranks in the millions and the combined asset value (in terms of fair market value) could be in tens or hundreds of millions.
If you consider the number of online gamers is simply increasing as well as the number of titles, then the possibility for continual growth in that combined asset value is also real. How long before it really matters? Does it matter when that value is in the hundreds of millions now or soon? How about in the billions? Still no? How about in the trillions? Yes, or do you still think it just ridiculous?
This brings up another point in that there are still a limited number of human players. Possibly, but the ability to create in game bots to play for you is becoming more and more intelligent. Just the same, consider those bots, familiars, servants, etc. that are collecting assets for your main character. Now it becomes easier for a (really dedicated) person to amass assets at a faster rate.
I spent the whole weekend trying to get rid of some undetected virus on my machine, even to the point of upgrading to a newer version of Windows. Still no luck and our internal helpdesk hasn't gotten back to me yet. Quite frustrating after about 20 hours of this (over three days). Now, I'm just sitting and waiting for tech support to call back.
Anyway, in the meantime, I went out and picked up the new Logitech MX-5000 Laser bluetooth keyboard and mouse. This one has a much greater range, with a claim of 60 feet. I can't really test that out in our house but I'm glad that I don't have to trail an RF wireless box across my carpet so I could use my previous keyboard/mouse. It seems to work fine from at least 40 feet away so that's much better. The old one needed almost line-of-sight of maximum 4 feet.
Our home computer is hooked up to our big screen in the family room, so we can use it whenever as well as watch any online video or play music from it. This set up works to a point. The screen is a Sharp Aquos 45" LCD TV which advertises 1920x1080, but that is really only for the HD signal and not the PC signals. The PC input channel only goes up to 1280x1024. However, on top of that, since it's wide screen, the text will look squished. So pratically, the maximum resolution you can get is 1280x768. Unless you actually expect to read anything from our couch (9' away)...
To get actual practical use out of it, we have to drop the resolution down to 1024x768 (since there is no widescreen 1024x600 on this nVidia GeForce card. It's not too bad, especially when some of the games can automatically change the resolution to higher settings. The Aquos is a nice TV certainly and uses only a third of the power of a plasma screen which makes me happier. This one uses less power than our previous 27" Sony Wega CRT TV.
However, I have yet to see full 1080p on this, since we don't own a hidef DVD player yet. The closest we come is the Cable TV HD channels which are 1080i. The shows which are actually recorded in HD look absolutely stunning, especially the nature shows where they go to the trouble to get the color right. The ESPNHD channel is also pretty good, but Cox cablevision doesn't receive all the HD channels as satellite does. The digital non-HD channels really do look and sound better than the regular ones; something I had not been able to tell until we get this newer TV earlier this year. Sci-fi channel really needs to get their own HD channel if they haven't already. Battlestar Galactica on the UNIHD (Universal Studios) channel looks just amazing.
My only lingering complaints about this TV is that they still haven't gotten black down and it needs better viewing modes. The blacks still look a little grey even at the lowest settings. You don't even need special equipment to tell that. Also the viewing modes allow Smart stretch, and Zoom but what they need is a second Zoom to allow widescreen movies (from DVD) to truly take up the full height. It's annoying to have a widescreen TV and still see DVDs showing in letterbox format. On cable, the cable box is able to do the second zoom (although you loose a bit of the sides) to fill the screen from letterbox. Eventually, more videos will work straight for widescreen TVs and that issue will go away but those DVDs are few and far between.
I have to say Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion on the 45" screen looks amazing.
Wired Magazine's recently issue talks about radical transparency as a new trend in the industry. However, I think this is more of a buzzword-rallying-piece rather than more well-known customer-driven innovation business concept. Industry congnoscenti, Patricia Seybold aptly describes some of the goals, issues and processes involved in her book last year Outside Innovation (see my book list). I stil have to find time to finish reading the last chapters of it but I think it does a great job presenting the topic in a more useful manner.
CNN has a story on Wi-Max, the upcoming standard for high-speed wireless Internet access from anywhere on the Sprint network. It's a metropolitan area network (MAN) although that term isn't really used as much anymore. While I may not see it here for another two years, this 4G wireless service should eventually supplant the EVDO service Sprint has now. For all those iPhone users waiting in line to get their silly first generation device which can only get Cingular's EDGE speeds (around 50Kbps), the megabit speeds of Wi-Max would make it look like a very fancy horse-and-buggy, next to a 2007 Bentley Flying Spur. The device may be usable but when it comes to downloading anything for a browser or worse a movie, be prepared to be tragically disappointed. Even my current EVDO service beats that by a magnitude.
Truth is that Wi-Max will not beat 802.11g in terms of raw speed (54Mbps) for a local area network, but keep in mind that most Wi-Fi hotspots are limited by their outgoing bandwidth, usually a DSL or Cable modem that really limits it to perhaps 2Mbps at best, before it even reaches their ISP. Worse yet, this bandwidth is shared with others from the hotspot point to the net, so in most cases, you're lucky if you can get a few hundred Kbps. With Wi-Max the uplink/downlink goes straight to the provider's antenna, and from there (presumably) high-speed links in the hundreds of megabits. It's a shorter hop and a much larger outgoing pipeline. This is assuming that the provider like Sprint does the right thing and has those outgoing net links at high-speeds, not a 10Mbps line.
Per that CNN article, Craig McCaw is right: "...doing for the Internet what cell phones did for voice 20 years ago."
To put it in perspective, texting from phones may go the way of the sailboat--still around for some purposes, but generally replaced by other forms of travel. It may become replaced by live video clips directly between users: faster, and easier (although maybe not from under the table in the meeting room). Push-to-talk can become push-to-video. Projects like SecondLife and Google Earth (in 3D) could be incorporated into your phones with GPS to actually show you the path you need to take (like the batmobile in Batman Begins) or the location of your peers in buildings (like in just about any modern spy movie today). For the truly self-immersed, you could stream continously from your headset mounted video camera to your vlog site.
I think this question above is what RW asked, in a comment to one of my earlier posts, per their blog posting on: luddites or laggards
My response is in their comments for the entry.
3 questions to contemplate in relation to Social computing going forward. Please feel free to offer your opinions.
The sudden charge of Apple stock over the past two days due to rumor--yes, it's definitely rumor not fact--about the coming of a iPhone Nano, so soon after the recent iPhone launch is a quick study in swarm intelligence. As the Business2 blog indicates, this is an example of rumor going wild and spreading quickly.
Swarm intelligence, if you haven't heard of it, describes how very simple behaviors can amount to "smart" decision-making through the work of a swarm of individuals. This theory started originally in the study of how swarms of insects, birds, fish and other animals seem to make intelligent decisions with relatively simple brains. For example, how a school of fish know to move rapidly away in a direction of a predator seemingly all at once, or how ants know when it is time to rebuild their nest or send our foraging parties. Each creature is programmed with a few very basic rules of how to function: e.g. if one or more of my neighbors is suddenly turning and moving rapidly in a new direction, I should be too. They count on individual actions, and the propagation of reaction through the swarm.
Swarm intelligence is a form of collective intelligence, but when it hits humans, the complexity grows because of our seemingly greater decision making abilities. Collective intelligence is part of the spark of interest in the social networking side of Web 2.0. Swarm behavior exists in humans at a basic level, but we call it by a variety of other things like herd-instinct, mob behavior, market trends, crowd movement, flow, etc. There is a lot we can learn from this in SN: how folksonomies grow and change, how decision making happens in online groups, what causes idea propagation, etc.
In the iPhone Nano case, I can see several basic elements: recent excited activity, seed idea, association with recent activity, trusted parties doing research, publishing/syndication, amplification, individual and market reaction.
This trend is well known by successful spindoctors and public relations organizations, and there is a whole industry of job roles behind it. Again, it sounds Machiavellian and controlling, but it really is how information flows.
In terms of social networks, we need greater understanding of what actually works in an online social environment, which is a different setting and may have different behaviors than live groups of folks.
I'm finally on vacation this year. It's been a very busy season since I started to get our dW Community program on a strategic course. As a reward to myself, I got a CD of Brazilian music ranging from samba to funk.
We are having a gathering of bloggers (GoB) at our next IBM Software University event in January. SWU is primarily an IBMer event and is held every year to gather the expertise from the many thousands of IBMers (FYI: IBM has about 300,000+ employees worldwide) who attend.
[I'll admit I made up the GoB word as a recursive definition of a group of bloggers. It's my Unix heritage.]
The GoB is at SWU because most of our bloggers on dW are currently IBMers. That's not to say we don't have non-IBMer bloggers. In fact, I really want to encourage many non-IBMer technical experts to consider joining our ranks.
However, we do like to make a distinction with our bloggers. We're not really an anyone-who-wants-to-blog site. There are plenty of blogs on all sorts of topics, but here at dW we'd like to focus primarily on technical and developer-oriented topics.
That means that we want to try to keep things on topic that developers would be interested in. This is a non-trivial exercise most of the time. How can you really tell what a blogger wants to talk about? In fact, there is often a lot of interesting information that seems less relevant to a bloggers main topic on occassion.
Bloggers need freedom to express themselves but at the same time, the blogspace is full of many blogs with random thoughts that wander aimlessly, and those that die because it is not an easy task to stay on topic.
Our idea of blogging is actually to find experts that really know their topic and can write about regularly. In print publishing, this is similar to finding a regular columnist; the difference being that columns tend to be much more limited in length, content type and stringent on topic. You can't really go off-topic for an issue with a column.
There could be a wide variety of topics that our bloggers can cover but the key goal is to have a blog that, on a regular basis, is of interest to our audience of programmers, testors, sysadmins, architects, and other technical folk. You can see from the wide range of topics and technologies that IBM is involved in, from our product base to the projects we are researching, to walk across the topic-horizon, learning as you go, could take more than what any single person could do in one lifetime.
rawn 100000R0P5 1,877 Visits
Wow I haven't really posted in here for a while. Time flies when you are having fun.
Lately I've been working on a survey of attitudes and behavior towards social software inside IBM among the sales people. It's part of my current assignment. I'm also putting a lot of my spare focus on my upcoming book. In talking to random folks at the Community 2.0 (tweets) and Online Community Business Forum, there seems to some exasperation on needing more structure around what constitutes community strategy, even among the people who aren't new on it. This is good news, since that is likely to get more people thinking about what to do about it.
I'm also on many different tools these days. Most of my activities outside IBM these days are either on Twitter or my dW space where it's either easier to just write a post, or post mixed media content.
Ian Hughes pointed me to the eightbar teams summary of what some companies have been building on SecondLife over the past months, including Warner Bros., American Apparel, Major League Baseball, the BBC, and Amazon.
Davenport in his book Thinking for a Living points out that the are essentially four basic types of activities carried out by Knowledge Workers in a line starting from :
For example, developerWorks is involved primarily in the activities ofPackaging and Distribution. We rely on authors, contributors, bloggers,and other experts to create the knowledge. We then package thatknowledge in various forms: articles, tutorials, blogs, briefings etc.We then offer a distribution mechanism for these pacakged knowledgethrough our web sites, our live events, etc. This is made available toour readership so that they may try to apply it each to their own uses.
The packaging part is the difficult proposition now in the light of unstructured knowledge.The dW web sites has typically been a e-zine in the past with manyZones each reflecting a magazine along some topic that appeals to someaudience. The knowledge comes from many sources, both within andoutside IBM to attempt to get the best coverage on a topic we can.These are structured into the semblance of an article or a tutorial.
Unstructured or less-structured knowledge, however, is where dWCommunity comes in. It's less structured because it does necessarilyfollow some kind of content format that people are familiar with: thereisn't necessarily an order to how the information is formatted, wherethe answers lie, where to look for more resources, or sometimes evenwho wrote the information or what their reputation/skill level in thesubject is. There is also usually little formal or standardized editinginvolved.
On the other hand, unstructured knowledge is where there is a hugeamount of growth, everywhere on the Internet. Take our blogs forexample: every blogger has their unique style on how they post theirknowledge, or even what kind of info they provide; while it isstructured according to the goals of that person, every visitor has totry to figure out each post or each blogger in context of others. Thisis both good and bad; it invokes style and personality to a greaterlevel. However, not everyone is a born-writer or blogger. Lots ofpeople go to school and study journalism just to learn how to do it;others, I will daresay like myself, have a natural apptitude for it.
To become more useful to those Knowledge Appliers, it helps to know howto better package your knowledge. While blog systems provide a tool forpresenting the knowledge, they don't automatically make you a betterwriter or a better blogger. With unstructured knowledge like blogs, fordW for example, we now share the workload of knowledge packaging withour experts, in exchange for greater freedom for them to carry oncreating knowledge about their activities. We also carry out anotherpart of the Packaging aspect through the blog tool itself.
What we (dW) need to provide is guidance. We collect the ideas,information, practices and success stories on what makes for goodhabits, techniques and practices for more successful blogs. We sharethat information with our bloggers as much as we can. In addition, wecontinue to workon ways to better distribute this knowledge across the site and the net.
Take the example of our blogs and multiply it for each other type ofcommunity tool (wikis, forums, podcasts, etc.) and you can see the rolewe provide in this Knowledge activity line in terms of unstructuredknowledge. When you consider that much of this is still fairly new orbleeding edge, we sometimes have to do the bleeding in the process offinding out what works and doesn't to better support our unstructured knowledge creators.
Unless of course someone else wants to handle that function ;)
I'm asked to explain what the Web 2.0 question often enough these days. There are plenty of things that have been put under this umbrella but rather than technologies it is the idea behind it that's most significant.
First of all what's "Web 1.0"?
This generally refers to the state of what the Web was primarily used for: a (mostly) consume-only service to access information. Even with all the many applications surfaced through the Web, the majority of the Web is still site for reading, gathering, and consuming information. The number of consumers is much greater than the number of producers.
To make the distinction, the thought behind "Web 2.0" is to instead make "producers" out of the majority of the users of the Web. Now, users not only visit the Web to gain information but also can contribute to the wealth of information that's out there.
It's a democratization of the Web if you will, allowing people not just to express their thoughts on their work, their lives, their emotions, etc. It is not just creating new written content, but contributing by taking existing data and "remixing" them to produce new content. It is also building application services that can work on data or app services that others produce.
Thus in the new world of "Web 2.0", people become producers of original and remixed data, content, and services.
There are quite a few books coming out around the topic of Web 2.0 and by leading literary minds like Dan Gilmor, and Thomas L Friedman. The topic is related to a number of ideas that can raise a lot of controversy including: freedom of expression, ownership of material produced, the right to use information and services of others, legal liability, and even globalization.
Web 2.0 existed from the very beginning of the Web itself, at least in concept. You could create home pages from very early on and even HTTP had rudimentary means to PUT and POST data. However, it was not until the rise of newer technologies that put it into the hands of the masses, and acknowledged significant impact on real-world issues that it really hit the mainstream.
With such a hotbed of activity, its no wonder that everyone wants to know more about how it applies to what they do:
As with any "gold rush", everyone is out to claim their stake in this. For some this rush is about new software. For others its about making yourself heard (and famous). For yet others, its about connecting with others of like mind.
Some common aspects I've observed:
If you are attending Enterprise2.0 conference next week in Boston, here are some of the events that I will be at. I may session-hop because there is just too much to see. Our BlueIQ Social software adoption will be all around the event, and even Gina Poole, our VP will be there.
8:30am – 4:15pm, Black Belt Practitioners Workshop
4:30-6pm, Evening in the Cloud
Sean Poulley, VP Online Collaboration Services
3:30-4:30pm, Lotus Enterprise Collaboration and Productivity
Kevin Cavanaugh, VP Messaging and Collaboration
12:00-12:45pm (after lunch), Social Networking for Business Book Signing/Giveaway & Nurturing BlueIQ: Enterprise 2.0 Adoption in IBM Whitepaper release – at IBM Booth on expo floor.
1-2pm, Evolution of E2.0 at IBM: The Frustrations and the Glory
Jeanne Murray and Rawn
2:30-3pm, A quick chat/meetup around my book Social Networking for Business, at IBM Booth
3:30-4:30pm, Social Behavior, Usage Patterns and Adoption
David Millen, IBM Research
There are also SweetTweets--Yay! Candy! as my 3yr old would say--at the booth during most of the show.
Other interesting sessions to go see:
- Rachel Happe, You say Social Media I say Community, Does it Matter? Tues 3:30-4:30pm
- Marcia Conner’s panel on Social Learning, Thurs 10:45-11:45pm
- Kathleen Culver, Greg Lowe’s The Dark Side of E2.0 Wed 8-8:45pm
Unfortunately with conflicts, I’ll miss some sessions that seem interesting:
- Rob Howard’s Strategic Analytics on Wed 2:15pm-3:15pm
- Mike Gotta’s Standards panel also on Wed 2:15pm-3:15pm
- Dion Hinchcliffe’s Establishing ROI panel, Wed 3:30-4:30pm
Like everyone, I’ll probably be posting on and off about what I see and hear at the conference.
Per my previous note, I mentioned that we have 400,000
people collaborating across 170 countries in
Per my previous note, I mentioned that we have 400,000
people collaborating across 170 countries in
To give an idea, first we need to look at the state of
social computing in By another count, there are over 200 applications--it varies based on what different folks consider as a "social application".
By another count, there are over 200 applications--it varies based on what different folks consider as a "social application".
For example, in rough numbers of some of the tools
This is just a subset and unofficial list of these services. There are other tools for enterprise wide social searching, social brainstorming, instant messaging, tweeting, podcast/videocast sharing, social profiles, and analysis tools. Some of these other tools are used by 100% of employees particularly instant messaging and out Bluepages (profiles) systems. Others have even more people because non-employees such as business partners, customers, and even suppliers have access to them.
People generally use them as follows:
So the groupings vary significantly, and a number individuals do use many of these tools for different reasons, but unique users still reach across the company.
The types of activities or projects in these spaces are just
as varied as the job roles, products and markets. Think of it, just in terms of
products alone, I think we have over 5000 distinctly, different ones (and not
just variations); some are very complex (imagine working on the DB2 database), and others are smaller. That still doesn’t include the many thousands of customer projects
people are working on at any one time. So in general there aren't any common scopes or scales for
what people work and interact on.
The general philosophy that creates this mix is that as a
company we encourage an internal free-market environment to allow many tools to
appear and compete with each other. This helps the best ideas to emerge out of
new social experiments and methods. While someone has to pay for the
environments, this is up to each social app project to figure out how to fund. There
are official tools that are universally supported, but there are also other research
and experimental projects—even Beehive as a research project easily includes over
The general philosophy that creates this mix is that as a company we encourage an internal free-market environment to allow many tools to appear and compete with each other. This helps the best ideas to emerge out of new social experiments and methods. While someone has to pay for the environments, this is up to each social app project to figure out how to fund. There are official tools that are universally supported, but there are also other research and experimental projects—even Beehive as a research project easily includes over 50k people.
We also do not police these activities. People are talking
about their non-work activities, but that is a natural outcome of social
interaction. As long as people are not breaking their business conduct and the
social computing guidelines, they are okay to use it how they like.
This kind of quantitative information really doesn’t show how people are collaborating just where. Rather our BlueIQ team collects success stories, especially recreatable and reuseable scenarios, from individuals illustrating how they are productively working together in these social spaces.
In general, it is complex to say how people are
collaborating, but safe to say that they are collaborating widely in the
social environments in
In general, it is complex to say how people are
collaborating, but safe to say that they are collaborating widely in the
social environments in
I picked up the latest Harvard Business Review first to read what their Avatar-based Marketing article was all about (more on this later) but also came across a few other articles which I thought were very useful. The first was an interview with Richard Saul Wurman on making events meaningful or useful (requires subscription).
Wurman has put on many events and conferences before but is best known for this Technology, Entertainment, and Design conferences. For an event-holder, his view is that the conference business sucks up huge amounts of marketing dollars, and is an enormous waste of the time of both participants and businesses. It is a fixture of the industry (and certainly the IT/Software industry).
However, his main issue is that most people go to these gatherings only to network and play golf. They don't really listen to the CEOs who can't really talk about all their vision. Marketers have to beg and plead exhibit-goers to take a look at their products, and pnael discussions are usually uncoordinated unrelated speeches. No one gets inspiration and overall nothing sticks.
Amusingly, I see a different view of what Wurman considers negative: "the networking". The term usually implies some sort of negative: the sleazy businessman trying to kiss up to their customers/bosses/etc. However, whether they know it or not, that is what most community forums are. An opportunity not just to learn more and ask questions, but to find that right person who may be able to help you. The way to do it is "networking". Or you could simply sit in a room where everyone is talking for long enough, and eventually someone might say something that can help you. Either way, this implies that some people need to be in the same venue to discuss topics. Others may participate or just listen in.
The venue is the issue. A physical forum like a conference is usually by far a better way to meet others, but obviously there are cons such as cost to travel and participate, time, etc. Virtual forums like discussion groups can provide many of the similar effects but it is more natural human behavior to want to meet others in person. Most real conferences are variances on different settings for in-person meetings.
The mode of how the forum occurs can also affect the benefits or usefulness of a forum. For example, an online group chatroom gives a more immediate interaction point, although if too many people are in the room, it makes for haphazard communications unless you have some sort of moderation/chat leader. A different mode is the bullentin board system that most of us just call plain old "discussion forums", that allows people to come whenvever they want, say their piece, have it recorded as part of their group, and then leave, only to return later to check for responses. This is much more asynchronous a mode of discussion.
The online chatroom is closer to the format of a physical conference than the discussion forum/bulletin board format (synchronous vs asynchronous mode). However, most chatrooms suffer from being in a text-only mode (with minimal graphic smileys), thus the impact is not quite the same as in a real conference, and almost will never be because there is a lot of social cues just simply missing when you cannot see another person. There are certainly new ones that you can notice in text-form, but humans are very visual animals, and we consciously or unconciously rely a lot on how we see others react.
This is one reason why I find 3D worlds like SecondLife and other MMO environments compelling venues. They can provide the synchronous mode feel, with actual visual representation, without the forced geolocation that live conferences require of us. SL for example, still requires a lot of the user to make it a universal tool, not just in terms of your computer's ability, but also in terms of behavior, tool controls/usage, and environment support, to overcome the substantial inertia that people have to new things (something for a future blog), but it is a solution to expensive live conferences. FYI: There have been a number of separate events (meetings, conferences, awards ceremonies, etc.) already held on SL. I wish they were all documented somewhere (by Linden Labs) to analyze the social behavior, issues, and successes or failures of these SL events, because it is these kind of events that can draw big crowds and more new subscribers.
Anyway, back on Wurman: his view is that rather than large conferences with many exhibits, sessions, etc., he would rather than one large meeting by invitation to all the people that the organizer feels wouold be interesting and active participants on the main or multiple topics at the event. This does away with the many failings that he sees and focuses entirely on enabling the exchange of ideas and facilitating discussions, rather than doing presentations and sales pitches.
He may be right in some sense. I'm a veteran of more than a decade of trade shows from every angle: hoster, promoter, attendee, booth bunny (I prefer "rabbit"), exec, press, and now more the "floater"/researcher. While seeing the range of products is nice, it's the constant shilling of products/services that makes it a drag, whether on the exhibit floor or session room. I prefer the conversations that are "in between", during the event but not necessarily part of it. This seems to me what Wurman is pointing out as his ideal.
If that's the case, I guess I'd agree with Wurman on that part. At the same time, I'm still looking around for alternatives in my purview and some of these MMOs are good possibilities.
PS: The HBR issue this month (June) has at least 4-5 articles that I found relevant which was worth the high $17 retail price for a copy.
rawn 100000R0P5 844 Visits
Ian Hughes talked about that the idea relating to Amazon's Mechanical Turk as I mentioned last week. While having lunch with my wife today, and reading an article in the previous issue of BusinessWeek, I found a connection to the Simple PC/Community PC idea popularized by Nicholas Negroponte of MIT.
Say you have thousands of people with such low-cost PCs, even shared insome netcafe, if must be. Then take the idea of wetware/human grids todo processing to analyze data. Add a payment mechanism per itemprocessed. This'd be a solution looking for a problem.
How is this for a problem:
Millions of hours of video and similar numbers of photos are takenevery day at security checkpoints such as banks, the motor vehicles/IDcard department, airports, ports, etc. This already happens widely inthe US for example. Now take a security issue like the Top Ten wantedcriminals with photos provided of each of them. How about sending allthat data soon after they are gathered to process in a wetware grid totry to identify potential suspect-matches. People are usually better atmatching faces than computers, even if it is not a perfect method. Paythe grid members a small amount per photo processed (2 to 5 centsperhaps) and ask them for sets of e.g., 100 photos to look over in asingle session; and pay a big bonus ($1000?) if an identificationeventually leads to the criminal's apprehension.
People living in many first world countries may say that $5 for aboutmaybe 1-2 hours work is simply not worth the time. But again this goesback to the "PC for the People" idea: make computing cheap for themasses in nations where $5 is a lot of money for some and $1000 is anunbelievable sum. Take a 1000 or 10,000 people in this wetware grid andyou have parallel processing of photos on a large and stillcost-effective scale.
Obviously there's a lot to be thought out here but it is the seed of an idea that could help:
PS: You might also want to read this month's Wired article on Crowdsourcing.